Mary’s Day With Dillinger

Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm
By: Doug Lund

I’ve always loved history and every once in a while my TV job allowed me the opportunity to have some close brushes with it. I was reminded of one such case this week on the 80th anniversary of John Dillinger’s unscheduled withdrawal from the Security National Bank at 9th and Dakota in Sioux Falls and my interview with a lady bank employee taken hostage by Dillenger that day and lived to tell the tale.

The old Security National Bank. This photo courtesy "Greetings from Sioux Falls"

The old Security National Bank. This photo from the 60’s  courtesy “Greetings from Sioux Falls”

It was “Public Enemy Number 1’s” first hold-up since escaping from an Indiana jail three days earlier using a hand-carved wooden gun and then stealing the sheriff’s own car to make his get-away. Dillinger high-tailed it to the Twin Cities where he quickly assembled a gang including the infamous killer, Lester Gillis, also known as Baby Face Nelson. They needed cash and sped off in the direction of Sioux Falls in a brand new Packard to get some.

John Dillinger about the time of the Sioux Falls robbery reportedly holding the fake gun he used to escape jail in Indiana.

John Dillinger about the time of the Sioux Falls robbery reportedly holding the fake gun he used to escape jail in Indiana.

I’d known about the Dillinger bank robbery in Sioux Falls long before the historical marker went up on the side of the old Security National building. I think it was Sioux Falls historian, Carol Mashek, who showed me damage to the structure believed caused by wayward Tommy Gun bullets fired by the robbers that day and there were plenty..both inside the bank and out.

One of the reported bullet holes from the Dillinger robbery.

One of the reported bullet holes from the Dillinger robbery. photo: Chad Coppess

What I didn’t know, however, is that one person directly involved in the whole ordeal was still alive and on the 70th anniversary of the robbery was going to receive an honor from the Mayor of Sioux Falls for her heroism so many years ago. When Bill Hoskins of the Old Courthouse Museum asked if I’d like to meet and visit with Mary Lucas Hawkins, I couldn’t wait.

Mary Lucas was born in Estherville, Iowa in 1909. Her dad worked for the railroad and in 1921 his job brought the whole family of nine to Sioux Falls where Mary attended Cathedral High School then Nettleton Business School. By 1934, Mary was putting her business skills to good use working as a bank teller and excited about her upcoming marriage to Dale Hawkins.

Mary Lucas about the time of the robbery.

Mary Lucas about the time of the robbery.

When we sat down to visit in the Old Courthouse Museum three blocks away from the Security National Bank, I asked what she remembered about that morning 7 decades earlier.
“I saw this big green car coming down 9th street. We happened to be looking out the window. I made the remark that it looked like a bunch of bandits.”

She was right and moments later Dillinger and four of his gang members wearing overcoats and brandishing Thompson Machine guns burst into the bank screaming orders. One of the employees managed to trigger the alarm which also set off the bell just outside the building which riled the robbers to no end. Mary said she was sure they were going to kill everyone..especially when Baby Face Nelson jumped up on a table, looked out the window and spotted motorcycle cop, Hale Keith, running to the scene. Nelson fired through the plate glass and put four slugs into Keith who somehow survived.

Baby Face Nelson

Baby Face Nelson

In spite of guns firing and people screaming, cooler heads prevailed and after scooping up some 49 thousand dollars in cash, Dillinger ordered a retreat to the get-away car using five bank tellers, including Mary Lucas, as shields. “They were in the middle and we were around them to keep anybody from shooting at them.” She said.  When the gangsters jumped inside the Packard, the hostages were told to get on the running board and hang on. It wasn’t a real hot pursuit, though because one of the officers in front had managed to put a bullet through the big car’s radiator slowing their escape South out of town. I asked Mary why weren’t the police right behind?  She said, “Well, they tried to but they(Dillinger gang members) were throwing out all these big carpet tacks. Anyone that came along had a flat tire.”  Not to mention that every so often a gangster would hold a machine gun out the window and fire right past the hostages heads at anyone who came close.

This is a 1934 Packard like the one Dillinger used. Nice long running boards for carrying human shields.

This is a 1934 Packard like the one Dillinger used. Nice long running boards for carrying human shields.

Eventually, around what would be 43rd street, the Packard gave out from overheating so the gang forced a farm couple from Canton to pull over and confiscated their Dodge..taking along the loot and some extra cans of gas but leaving the shivering hostages standing by the road. That’s when a fellow drove up in his car. “And he stopped and said, what in the world are you doing out here in this weather with no coats? We promptly told him what happened so he brought us back to the bank.” Mary told me.

It was a much relieved bank president when he saw his girls back safe and sound shaking from cold and fear but alive. Mary says, “And he gave us a shot of something. I don’t know what but it was probably the first drink I ever had.”

Front page news.

Front page news.

Mary Lucas Hawkins got married shortly after the incident and eventually settled with her husband, Dale, in Billings, Montana where they found great success and became highly respected contributors to the arts and philanthropic causes.  Mary died in December of 2009 at the age of 100. She was known as a Grand Dame of Billings for all her service and devotion to so many organizations especially the Western Heritage Center.

Mary Lucas Hawkins 1909-2009

Mary Lucas Hawkins

All possible because she survived that harrowing experience clinging to the window of John Dillinger’s Packard on a chilly March morning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The FIRST Captain 11

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm
By: Doug Lund

Hardly a day goes by that there’s not news of another celebrity biting the dust. This morning it was Jim Lange who died of a heart attack in California at the age of 81.My first thought wasn’t so much about this St. Paul, Minnesota native whose claim to fame was as the longtime genteel host of “The Dating Game” on television.

capt. lange in tux host

No what initially popped into my head was..had it not been for Jim Lange, there wouldn’t have been a Captain 11.

Back in the early 50’s when television was just getting off the ground, local stations, including WMIN Channel 11 in Minneapolis, were scrambling to find programming to fill all the air time not covered by the networks..which included time in the afternoon when kids got home from school. That gave birth to all kinds of local characters to host kids’ TV shows. They varied from clowns and cowboys to rail engineers and rocket rangers; the latter being the concept for Captain 11.  Young Jim Lange was selected to portray the Captain in 1954  a  uniform was designed and taylor made and a special set constructed with all types of electronic gadgetry surrounding a captain’s chair from which Captain 11 would direct the audience into the past or future with the push of a button and sell Bosco chocolate syrup during the commercials.

That's Lange as the Captain who apparently sat at his time controls rather than stand in front of them.

That’s Lange as the Captain who apparently sat at his time controls rather than stand in front of them.


Here's Lange again as the Captain along with Steve Cannon (Longtime grouchy radio host of the Cannon Mess on WCCO) who was Wranger Steve on WMIN and Roger Awsumb was Casey Jones

Here’s Lange again as the Captain along with Steve Cannon (Longtime grouchy radio host of the Cannon Mess on WCCO) who was Wranger Steve on WMIN and Roger Awsumb was Casey Jones


They did some personal appearances too but nothing like Dedrick ended up doing.

They did some personal appearances too but nothing like Dedrick ended up doing.

By 1955, it was clear that WMIN’s sister station in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; KELO Channel 11, should have a Captain 11 of its own.  It was “literally” a toss-up between Murray Stewart and Dave Dedrick as to who would fill those Wellingtons. Company president, Joe Floyd, tossed a coin and Dedrick wound up on his way to Minneapolis to be fitted for his first uniform and to undergo basic training with the “other” Captain, Jim Lange.

In all our years on the golf course or just sitting around talking, I don’t recall Dave saying very much at all about that meeting with Lange other than he wasn’t sure the show would last long under the format they were using. And he was right, within a couple years, Jim Lange had moved on to Hollywood and two other guys who were assigned to wear the uniform for WMIN didn’t work out. So that was it.

Chris Wedes replaced Lange

Chris Wedes replaced Lange


Jack Rebney replaced Lange

Jack Rebney replaced Wedes

Dedrick was determined to give his Captain 11 staying power and realized the best way to do that was to have an audience in the studio; a “crew” as he called it. How do you do that? Why not invite kids to celebrate their birthday party with Captain 11 on live TV?

Our Captain 11 in one of his first promotional photos.

Our Captain 11 in one of his first promotional photos.

It was ingenious and every weekday at 4,  no matter the weather, the Keloland lobby smelled like Bazooka bubble gum and was filled with the sound of anxious little voices until the studio door opened and they rushed in to find a seat on the bleachers and then hold their breath as that larger than life figure dressed in dazzling blue with the number 11 embroidered in gold on his  pilot’s hat walked up to the giant time converter machine..turned his magnificent face to the camera and when the little red light came he’d salute and say “Captain Eleven reporting for duty.” Then he’d turn to ask that familiar question, “How’s my crew today?” To which the young audience’s answer FINE would explode from their little bodies whether they actually felt fine or not. Ah, but who could be anything but when in the presence of a hero to three generations of kids.

capt montage

And just think..none of it would have happened if a guy named Jim Lange hadn’t accepted that first assignment. It just took another guy named Dedrick to complete the mission.

May you both Rest In Peace.

Heavenly Days

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 2:08 pm
By: Doug Lund

I sneezed this morning and there was no familiar “God bless you.”

That’s when the realization hit me that my sweet Linda has left me.  Oh, don’t worry, she’ll be back in a fortnight. At least I hope she doesn’t find her stay in the Phoenix area with her sister Renee and our desert daughter, Christy, so appealing that the thought of returning to life back here with snow, cold, and Doug’s dirty underwear in need of laundering too repugnant.

Well, I feel pretty good about writing my blog here at Dunn Bros. Coffee shop this week..only because I know I’m in good company..and I do mean GOOD company. I’m pretty sure the guy sitting next to me is a young minister working on this week’s sermon. I suppose he could be a seminary student but looks too old for that. Perhaps a professor of religion, I think from the way he was counseling a young family sitting off to his right a few minutes ago, he’s a minister all right. I dare not look at what he’s writing on his laptop and have tried to avoid listening in on his numerous phone conversations by putting on my headphones and tuning in to one of the web stations playing free big band jazz music which, I guess, if you put my feet to the fire insisting on knowing, would be my favorite. “Night and Day” is currently in my ear.

Anyway, the reverend is also surrounded by several religious books including a very well worn Bible and he’s intensely taking notes both written and on his computer.

I’d like to strike up a conversation with him.  “Does the Lord speak to you more clearly here in a busy coffee shop than in the solitude of your office too?”  But  I don’t dare ask, of course. I’d need more than coffee for that kind of nerve.

Oh, man, “Time after Time” is playing now. I adore that song especially when performed by a big band.  I started singing the words forgetting I had headphones on and was a tad embarrassed when I apparently broke the silence of our serene surroundings and sensed a few eyes glancing my way.

I wonder if God talks out loud to this guy or just sends thoughts and signs his way leaving the interpretation up to him but clear enough to leave no doubt that his God is as real as the sun, moon and stars and that any and all questions about life and its complications can be answered in the scriptures..or better yet in a clear voice. I’d like to ask him why this old hypocrite is so miserable in his faith or lack of it and as he grows “nearer my God to thee” is not all that convinced that his baptism, confirmation, regular confession of  sin, declaration of faith and holy communion is enough for that golden ticket through the pearly gates.  It’s a question doubters have been asking for generations and, unless the Lord should decide to give me a special audience to clear things up before the big dirt nap, I’ll just have to hope I encounter the Jesus who showed mercy to the repentant thief on the cross..not the Jesus who talked a lot about the wide road to Hell and narrow way to salvation. .

My mysterious padre has broken his silence again..not with me but the guy who sat next to him. Since I had to visit the men’s, I couldn’t help but overhear him preach what he’s been practicing to the fella. Maybe he’s a Jehovah Witness who works neighborhood coffee shops instead of just neighborhoods. Nah.. don’t they usually travel in pairs?

“All the things you are.” A beautiful classic from Jerome Kern. Love it.

Yup, I’m almost certain this chap is a chaplain. He just stepped out to his car and came back with what appears to be a hymnal; a Lutheran hymnal, I think..the red one. He must be closing in on the end of his sermon if he’s picking out the tunes.

I guess I better be going too.  Maybe I should ask where he’ll be preaching on Sunday perhaps  I’ll come for a visit.

Nah..don’t want to bother his studies.

It sure would be nice though if the Lord would send a clear sign my way once in a while..maybe one of his own special envoys.. just to let me know He’s really out there and ready to visit any time.

Ah, Artie Shaw’s “Stardust”..heavenly.

Doug, Come Away From The Dark Side

Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm
By: Doug Lund

As is often the case, I find myself here at Dunn Brother’s Coffee which has historically been a pretty good source of inspiration when my writing idea light bulb seems to be set on dim. There is no reason for me to think this. Maybe I fancy myself to be one of those cerebral college professor-types donned in a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows sitting alone in the corner amid gunny sacks of beans marked Brazil, Columbia and Guatemala consuming huge quantities of strong coffee staring at the computer keyboard convinced that the next profound words of wisdom that will turn the world on its ear are about to appear on the screen. The truth is, however,  I’m a fraud; not a deep thinker at all..just a procrasting Norskie who likes the coffee in this place. I like it even better since Linda and I got to visit a coffee plantation in Hawaii last Fall. It turns out I didn’t know squat about selecting the best, most flavorful variety. I had been under the apparent misguided assumption that the darker the roast the richer the taste when, in fact, dark roasting a fine coffee bean is akin to ordering a filet mignon well done. On the other hand, light roasting of the beans, according to our Kona Coffee plantation guide, allows the full flavors to come through rather than going up in smoke out the chimney.  Now, as you might expect, in the world of coffee connoisseurs there is a considerable difference of opinion on this point. Many people, including me, have associated a light roast with that Lutheran Church basement, sour tasting, gas station swill that was little more than brown hot water. The experts say, though, that has more to do with cheap beans and brewing methods than to the amount of actual roasting time.

I don’t really want in the middle of a coffee squabble. Drink what you like, for heaven’s sake. I’m just not going back over to the dark side when ordering up a cup.

Oh, I did get recognized here at the coffee shop.  That’s happening less and less these days. Dunn Bros owners, Doris and Emily aren’t here today but another nice lady behind the counter could see beyond my goatee and remembered the fella who used to be on the news. She even instructed her younger co-worker to make sure the half and half container was filled for me. Such celebrity perks still coming my way.

Even though the espresso machine was making a wooshing racket, I couldn’t help but overhear my senior admirer explaining to her junior colleague how that old guy sitting in the booth gnawing on a chicken salad sandwich was actually a pretty big deal on local teevee years ago.

Done my heart good.

Any good news would be very welcome these days. It’s sure been a mixed bag from family in Omaha lately.

No sooner did Linda’s niece, Gigi, finally seem to have cleared the final hurdle in her long battle with breast cancer than Gigi’s little sister, Chauna, is diagnosed with the same disease.
At first it appeared as though Chauna might not have to undergo Chemo…but, after further review, doctors thought differently. Poor thing had her first treatment this week with several more to come. She is such a sweet person of faith who accepts this as a challenge to be overcome.

I just want to kick something.

A few years ago, two of my cousins. also sisters; Leslie and Amy, received that awful diagnosis…breast cancer.  Leslie survived. Amy..who, by the way, was one of the founders of Caribou Coffee, died.

I don’t know what has to be done to eradicate breast cancer but probably more than sports figures wearing pink outfits or racers driving pink cars on a weekend or two to call awareness to the problem. We’re all too aware of it…put that money and a few billion more dollars into finding a cure..NOW.  If Mr. Buffet and Mr. Gates wish to use their billions to leave a legacy. I can think of nothing better than using it to challenge the greatest minds on earth to the greatest medical challenge in history; eradicating cancer in the next ten years.

South Dakota broadcasting legend, Tom Brokaw, is the latest to get the bad news. He’s been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. Doctors are optimistic about treatment. I hope so.

Damn cancer.

I suppose I shouldn’t curse. I guess it’s for dramatic effect although that’s such a mild curse by today’s standards it has little or no effect at all. It’s even okay to use that expletive and the H.E. double toothpicks word in TV commercials now. You know the credit card ad with Samuel L. Jackson. (Or is it, Laurance Fishburne? I get those two mixed up.)   As for cable networks like A&E, USA, SPIKE, Comedy Central and most of the others..just about any of the George Carlin once-forbidden words you can’t say on TV are being said pretty much bleep-free in prime time now.

But, that’s a  topic for another day.

Well, my free refill is empty and the nice lady who recognized me has left for the day so I dare not expect a third cup..but, hey, this place worked its magic again

Wally Wingert: Life After Leno?

Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm
By: Doug Lund

When Jay Leno closes out his long career as host of the top rated Tonight Show, it also brings an end to a dream job for guy whose roots run deep in South Dakota.  But don’t feel too sorry for Tonight Show announcer, Wally Wingert, he’s still got as much work as his versatile  voice box can handle.

wally and jay

I happened to catch up with Wally by phone on his way to NBC in Burbank for the second to last Tonight Show rehearsal before the studio is shut down and the entire production moves to New York City where Jimmy Fallon takes over after the Olympics. It was pretty clear that Wally had already rehearsed his answer to my first question about what he was going to do now because he’s been asked it a lot. “Well, I’m a voice actor, Doug, and while I’ve been able to continue some of the work I was doing prior to the Leno show such as commercials for “Old Navy,” “Spam,”  “Nike” plus cartoon and video game characters, a lot of stuff has had to be curtailed or put on hold because of the demands the Tonight Show puts on my time.”

“Wait a minute, demands on your time? You go in and open the show, announce the guests and introduce demanding can it be?”

“Well, it was that way in the beginning, but then they discovered all these voices I do so most every day I’m called in by the writers to record several comedy bits. I can sometimes record them in my home studio but usually I’m on call to drive to Burbank.. My voice pops up quite regularly during Jay’s monologues.

I’ve got to be honest, when I first met Wally Wingert it was after he was hired as a very young disc jockey on Kelo radio whose studio was right next to our TV newsroom, I didn’t know what to make of him. He was incredibly outgoing and friendly but slightly nuts. As he’d walk by to grab news copy from the teletype or change the Weatherball, he might slip into impersonations of Elvis or Kermit the Frog or anyone of a hundred different characters. Don’t get me wrong, he was very good at them but it was a little disconcerting at first. Not everyone was so accepting of Wally’s zaniness but, as a genetically predisposed to be shy Norwegian, I admired his willingness to face up to criticism, laugh it off and try something else. He was hired to entertain at a Kelo Christmas party one year and brought the house down with his dead-on impersonation of the Andy Kaufman character, Latka from the Taxi TV series.

When the movie about Andy Kaufman, "Man on the moon" came out, Wally  went down to the Hollywood premier dressed in costume and was interviews by the ABC affiliate.

When the movie about Andy Kaufman, “Man on the moon” came out, Wally went down to the Hollywood premier dressed in costume and was interviews by the ABC affiliate.

wally elvisWally also had an Elvis jump suit made and hired a band to record a series of songs by the King of Rock and Roll. It was so good; the local school channel played it on cable for years. That was followed up by Wally’s impersonation of Paul McCartney. Not only did he create the physical illusion perfectly but his talents as a singer shocked a lot of doubters.

By the late 80’s it was clear that if Wally was going to make a living acting like other people he was going to have to shake the dust off Dakota and go where those dreams are fulfilled..or crushed..Hollywood. With the help of fellow lunatic, Dr. Demento, Wally got a job with Westwood One radio in Los Angeles and wrote a parody song about his childhood hero Adam West, the original Batman. It went number one on the Dr. Demento radio show, was featured on “A Current Affair” and “Rolling Stone.”  In 1993, Wally left radio to pursue acting, singing and especially voice-over work full time and it wasn’t long before he landed a shot on the hit CBS TV series “Murphy Brown.”  Although Wally himself is never seen, his voice and puppet skills made for a hilarious exchange with the star that’s still talked about today.

That appearance was followed by a four year gig portraying Beetlejuice in the stage production at Universal Studios Hollywood.

wally beetlejuice

He left after the demand for his voice became so great there was little time for much else. A nice problem to have.

wally jon arbuckle Since then, you have heard but not seen Wally Wingert as Jon Arbuckle in the Garfield cartoons, as well as characters from  “Family Guy,” “Space Chimps,” “King of the Hill,” “Bleach,” “The Simpsons,” “Invader Zim,” “The Fairly Oddparents,” “Scooby Doo 2,” “Astro Boy,” Harvey Birdman,” “Rugrats,” “Transformers; Robots in Disguise” and countless others. Not to mention voicing dozens of video games including the Riddler in the award winning  “Batman: Arkham Asylum.”

Wally’s success has allowed him to indulge his passions as a lifelong fan of the same Hollywood he’s now such a big part of. His home is like a museum filled with  collections of movies and TV memorabilia including several life-size mannequins of childhood heroes that  rival Madam Tussauds in quality and attention to detail.

wally batman and robin

“It’s corny, but dreams really do come true.” Wally tells me. “God delivers. I’ve had the chance to meet and become friends with so many people who I idolized growing up; Adam West, Paul Michael Glasier and David Soul. I gotta tell you a story, when I was a kid, my pal Steve Hatt and I were big Starsky and Hutch fans; dressing up and wearing our hair the same as them.


When I started doing okay out here, I was able to find a Starsky and Hutch Grand Torino. It’s been perfectly restored. Then I met Paul Glasier who was recording audio for his book. I was able to give him a few pointers and we became friends. Again, God’s timing.

Paul Glaser (Starsky) poses with Wally's clone of the car used in the TV series.

Paul Glaser (Starsky) poses with Wally’s clone of the car used in the TV series.

Well, that led to my emceeing a Starsky and Hutch reunion last summer in which people who donated to a charity could get a ride in the back seat with Starsky and Hutch using MY Grand Torino.  I flew my pal Steve out here from South Dakota to not only meet our childhood idols..but take a ride with them.

wally starsky hutch with car

Starsky and Hutch..Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul pose with Wally, Steve, Wally's Grand Torino and some other friends on a day they'll never forget.

Starsky and Hutch..Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul pose with Wally, Steve, Wally’s Grand Torino and some other friends on a day they’ll never forget.

The experience was surreal. No one can tell me hard work and a lot of faith can’t work miracles.”

As we talked, I kept checking my watch hoping I wasn’t keeping him from rehearsal but he assured me there was time.

“Okay, I said, would you go back if Jay got another gig, needed an announcer and gave you a call?”  “I really don’t think that will happen, Doug. But, I probably would..yeah. Jay has taken a lot of heat from some of his competitors that I think is unfair. He’s going out still number one in the ratings.  He’s been a great boss and a good role model to me and I’m really going to miss not only him but everybody involved with the show.”

A lot of people will be on permanent hiatus now. That's Jay Leno in the middle. Wally is a few folks to Jay's right in the bowling shirt, of course.

A lot of people will be on permanent hiatus now. That’s Jay Leno in the middle. Wally is a few folks to Jay’s right in the bowling shirt, of course.

“You have one of the most loaded websites out there, Wally, filled with stuff including a weekly diary or blog about what’s going on in your life. Your cat, Spooky and especially your Cocker Spaniel, Roxy, are a big part of it apparently.”

“That’s for sure. I got Roxy a couple years ago after my longtime pal, Sassy died. She has a pretty interesting pedigree. Her grandfathers have all been Lassie (the REAL Lassie from TV and film) and her brother is the current Lassie. Roxy sure gets lots of attention when we go for walks in the park.”

Wally's beautiful Collie not only looks like Lassie, she's directly descended from her..or him. Plus if  Wally ever falls down a well, Roxy can lead rescuers right to him.

Wally’s beautiful Collie not only looks like Lassie, she’s directly descended from her..or him. Plus if Wally ever falls down a well, Roxy can lead rescuers right to him.

“Forgive me for getting a little personal here Wally, but in your blogs you divulge just about everything that’s happening in your world but even though you post lots of pictures of you surrounded by beautiful women you never…well…ummm..I guess I just was wondering if you’ know.. happy.”

wally with ladies

(Knowing laughter on the other end of the line) “I get your drift Doug and let me say I don’t write every thing down on ‘Wally’s Week’ and yes, I’m happy…very happy.”

You can check out Wally Wingert’s webside here but be prepared you can spend a lot of time there.

Continued good luck, old friend, and thanks for proving what our mutual friend, Dave Dedrick AKA Captain 11, always said, “Growing up  is not always the right thing to do.”

A Love Story To Be Shurr

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:41 pm
By: Doug Lund

I don’t turn directly to the obituaries in the paper each morning..but I do tend to linger over them longer than I used to; probably because I’m astounded at the growing number of people younger than me who have met their demise.

You can learn a lot about people in the obituaries..or very little..depending on how much money the surviving families are willing to shell out for the paper to print the long version of their lost loved one’s life history.

Occasionally, there are people with the same last name appearing in the obits which usually means some sort of tragic accident has occurred. But when I saw this in last Friday’s Argus it appeared as if John and Bernita Shurr..both 95 and having spent 73 years of their life together, died because they just couldn’t go on living without each other.

shurr obit

Throughout his long life, John Shurr was proud of his Irish ancestry and loved the fact that he was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 1918.  He probably was also proud of being the heir apparent to Lone Tree, the farm homesteaded by his grandparents, near Ellsworth, Minnesota..although he may have been considering another career when after high school he enrolled in Mankato State College. It was there he met and fell in love with fellow student, Bernita Bell who was born on a farm near Walnut Grove, Minnesota about 60 miles Northeast of John also in 1918. They were married in 1940 and moved to a small house on the homestead where John continued working while he sorted out his future and Bernita continued a family tradition of teaching school that went back five generations. When World War II broke out, John wasn’t called up because as the only son, he was needed at the farm. Then in 1943, his father died suddenly..leaving no choice about what John’s lot in life would be. So, for the next 69 years he and Bernita ruled the roost that was..and is.. the Shurr family farm called “Lone Tree.”

They had two sons, George and Robert, became actively involved in their church and community, read profusely, and were loved and admired by family and friends.

When tough decisions had to be made about moving into assisted living..then to an Ellsworth nursing home, John and Bernita accepted it gracefully as long as they could be together.

Dying a week apart, then, wasn’t all that unusual.

Still, I thought, there might be something more to their story so I took a chance this past week and gave the Shurr’s son, George a call and discovered that yes, of course, there’s always more.

By all accounts, John Shurr did well in his 91 years at Lone Tree. He was a good farmer who worked hard and played hard too..especially baseball and softball in his younger days. George says his dad was a quiet, friendly and humble man who loved studying and talking about history, philosophy, religion and, of course sports..especially his beloved Minnesota  Twins and Vikings.

That's John and Bernita Shurr on the right at the wedding of their son, George to his wife Margaret in 1965

That’s John and Bernita Shurr on the right at the wedding of their son, George to his wife Margaret in 1965

“Mom, on the other hand, was one of the first ‘women’s libbers’.  She was one of the first to take up the cause of fairness for Native Americans. Her intellectual curiosity was insatiable.” George said. “She was always reading up and taking a stand on various social issues including opposition to the Vietnam War when U.S. involvement began growing during the Johnson administration.”

John and Bernita had personal reasons for concern. Their  son, Robert was high on the draft list so he chose to enlist in the U.S. Army. That was in 1969.

On April 13th  1970, Specialist 6 Robert J. Shurr was killed instantly by an enemy grenade in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.  He was 24.

shurr robert vietnam 1970

Robert J. Shurr  

When the news reached Lone Tree farm, Bernita was inconsolable suffering from a mixture of devastation and rage. “Eventually, George says, Dad came around to dealing with Bob’s death but I don’t think Mom ever did and, all her life, has continued to bend politician’s ears about war and other government pursuits she didn’t agree with. She really had high hopes for President Obama.”

“They’ve tried to make the best out of being off the farm and having to live in a home,” George told me. “Mom was still plenty feisty,” but when dad’s hearing aids went bad, she became frustrated when he couldn’t be her sounding board about things she’d read or was thinking and she started to drift into dementia. But she seemed to perk up some once he got the repaired hearing aids back.”

John and Bernita with two of their great grandchildren.

John and Bernita with two of their great grandchildren.

King and Queen of Valentine's Day at Parkview Manor 2012

King and Queen of Valentine’s Day at Parkview Manor 2012

This past Christmas with son George who along with his wife Margaret have been faithful visitors and helpers at the home taking care of mom and dad.

This past Christmas with son George who along with his wife Margaret have been faithful visitors and helpers at the home taking care of mom and dad.

Both John and Bernita were pretty good at Christmas but after the first of the year, it was clear that time was running out. And, so it did for John on the 14th.

I don’t know what..if anything..was said as she held his hand at the end.  I would imagine they’d talked about this very moment before.  I’d like to think it was something like, “Wait for me dear, I’ll be right behind you.”

Because it was going to take awhile for all the family members to get home, John’s funeral was delayed.  As it turns out, that was meant to be because 8 days later, Bernita joined him on the other side.

They’ll be laid to rest together following a 2:30 p.m. service on Friday January 31st at the Jurrens Funeral Home in Rock Rapids, Iowa.

I was curious about whether or not it was possible that Bernita just decided she didn’t wish to live on without John and let go. Their son, George believes it to be true.

I thought I’d ask someone who might not be so emotionally invested in the issue so I talked with Mike Werner the longtime administrator of Parkview Manor. He basically said the science says no but the romantic in him says sure..why not?

He did say this though: “Doug, did you happen to count the days both John and Bernita actually lived on this earth? They’re EXACTLY the same 95 years 9 months and 28 days.  Now what are the odds of that? That seems a little beyond coincidence doesn’t it?”


On The RAZR’s Edge

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm
By: Doug Lund

My trusty old laptop is in the shop; a victim of my clumsy attempts to make her run better. A pox upon that British guy on Youtube and his quick fix video that resulted in me firing some longtime guardians he claimed were unnecessary and slowing me down. In following his instructions, I apparently left myself open to strangers who were only too happy to exploit my computer ignorance and vulnerability..leading me down dangerous paths where only the experienced should dare to venture.

"Old Faithful" I hope the injuries I caused are not mortal.

“Old Faithful” I hope the injuries I caused are not mortal.

The HP laptop was a parting gift from Keloland at my retirement 7 years ago and has served me well for both writing Lund at Large and recording Voice of Keloland assignments when we are out of town. I have left it in the capable hands of the Keloland I.T. guy in hopes it can be salvaged at least enough for me to retrieve stuff from my hard drive and maybe apologize for allowing her to be violated because of my selfish choice to seek speed over safety.

The laptop incident has not been the only sobering reminder of how little I really know about communication technology.

For the last several months it was clear that a trip to the Verizon store would be necessary. After three years, the lid on my flip phone had cracked to the point it wouldn’t stay open when answering or during a call which led to numerous unintentionally rude hang-ups on people when my hand would accidentally let go of the top causing the lid to slam shut. It was time for Linda and my free upgrades. Now, we’d been thinking about getting smart phones like most everyone else on the planet but really couldn’t justify the cost. (Double what we’re paying now) Plus, we don’t text..nor care to. And, (the main reason really) I’m afraid we might be too dumb to learn how to operate a smart phone. So, it was pretty much settled, we’ll get our new flippers and be out the door.

Two hours later, however, we were exiting the building with puzzled looks on our faces carrying a bag containing two Droid RAZR smart phones wondering aloud “what in the hell did we just do?”

I had been wooed into submission by the clever young salesman I guess.


It’s not the first time people have tried to intimidate me technologically. Newspapers had been using computers for quite a while but by the mid 1980’s everybody in TV news realized it was only a matter of time before they’d be invading our territory too. We got to see it first hand in 1987, when Dan Rather took the CBS Evening News on the road for a week of broadcasts on the farm crisis from our Keloland studios in Sioux Falls. Rather was only here a couple days before dashing back to New York but, to our good fortune, Charles Kuralt was brought in to finish out the week…which is a whole other story. The point is, we got to see, first hand, how reporters and producers utilized computers and how it would forever change the format and speed in which news is assembled and presented.

It still took a couple years before the inevitable happened; ours was to be the first local TV newsroom to bid the old typewriters adieu and become  totally computerized.  Of course, all of our younger colleagues were overtly and covertly convinced that Hemmingsen and I were too stuck in our ways to ever adapt to the new system which only made me more determined to outshine all of ‘em.  I paid close attention during our ten day orientation classes and was as ready as any of them when we hit the air live after a few test runs. Hemmingsen did too..although he refused to give up his old Olympia typewriter, keeping it under his desk for several months in case of emergency. We actually did have a couple computer malfunctions in those early days  in which the typewriters were dragged out of storage and brought brought back into temporary service. I don’t think that’s even an option today and I don’t know anyone who would have the finger strength to operate a manual typewriter or change a ribbon.

So now, I sit here and stare at this ..or one just like it.

I wonder if we'll ever be friends.

I wonder if we’ll ever be friends.

It’s been over two weeks since we got our RAZR’s..well past the point of going back on our commitment and even though I’m learning a little bit more about them every day, the process is slow and, considering the lapse in judgment that sent my laptop to the hospital, I’ve tried to be extra careful about what I touch.  The trouble is, many errors are unavoidable because my fingers are too fat or arthritic or something. Even though I widen the keyboard to maximum, a simple request for my email address comes out something like dlu@#dorkmufl .  I have sort of figured out how to avoid typing by using the voice commands for both Google and the phone but sometimes I get a rather ass-chewing electronic reply like “Are you still there?”  or “Next time try..blah blah..”   In frustration, I have..and I’m not proud of it..occasionally..talked back to my Droid using expletives that would make them think twice about asking me to narrate the Christmas Cantata at church ever again.

Well, I see a little green light flashing on my phone.  There was a time when that meant a change in weather foreseen. Now I think it means I’ve got a message of some sort. Guess I’ll turn her on and start pushing some of those tiny little icons with my Incredible Hulk hands and see what happens.

Wish me luck.

I’m Just Winging It Here

Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 10:50 am
By: Doug Lund

(It should be noted that this blog, like chicken, should be taken with a grain of salt)

When you spend as much time as I do sitting in a big old recliner chair with a computer in your lap looking out the window waiting for the winter to end but not really caring all that much because you rarely venture out in the cold and snow anyway, you have lots of time to think. Today, I’ve been thinking about chickens and how I might get rich off of them in my old age just like Colonel Harland Sanders did when he started KFC at the age of 65.

Colonel Douglas. I kinda like the sound of that. I can picture it too:big guy with a goatee as white as his suit shilling fried chicken wing franchises nationwide. That’s right, its wings only baby.

wing platter

Wings are where the money is; or must be since so many places that feature them are taking flight across the country especially in Sioux Falls where in just the past couple weeks it was announced two new restaurants were opening; Buffalo Wild Wings will expand with a third location on the East Side.    Plus a franchise, new to this market called Wingstop, will be locating on Minnesota Avenue. Chicken wings are a specialty at most every sports bar in town..not to mention their popularity at parties..especially with the NFL playoffs going on and Super Bowl coming up. The National Chicken Council estimates that last year 1.25 billion chicken wings were eaten on Super Bowl Sunday, and that 23% of people who watched the game ate wings — a few, or perhaps a few dozen, each.   Of course you can’t have chicken wings without the whole chicken which got me to wondering; what are they doing with all the other truly delicious parts of the bird whose lives have been sacrificed to harvest those useless..yet tasty..limbs?  I picture that scene from “Dances with wolves” when prior to the buffalo hunt, Costner and the Sioux come across hundreds of bison carcasses rotting in the sun stripped bare by white hunters interested only in the valuable buffalo hides.

Are they finding enough outlets and uses for processed chicken meat sans wings?  Or are there piles of once prized breasts and thighs tossed out the door to become elegant dining for wild animals?    I see some fast food places offering “boneless wings!”  No such thing people. It’s probably a desperate attempt to disguise and dispose of the former prime cuts.

Let’s see, where was I?

Oh, yeah..getting rich off chickens.

I’ve done considerable research on the subject of meat efficiency ( a few Google searches) and have decided that it is quite possible to genetically engineer these birds to grow a pair…an extra pair of wings, that is. Listen, it’s already being done ON PEOPLE.


It's possible to grow a nose on a forehead.

It’s possible to grow a new nose on the forehead of this chap who desperately needs one.  Once it reaches sufficient size it will be surgically removed and implanted in the less gross  normal position.


And a replacement ear on an arm.

Or a replacement ear on this guy’s forearm.

So here’s my prototype  for a four winged chicken.


It would appear that aerodynamically, a 4 wing chicken would be no better at flying than the two wing variety.

It would appear that aerodynamically, a 4 wing chicken would be just as flight challenged as the two wing variety easing fears of them flying the coop.

Double the profits right out of the chute. Plus the PETA people will be happy (well, nothing short of global veganism will make them happy) by cutting the chicken slaughter in half. Plus, imagine the friendly bar competitions over who gets the more tender and tasty bottom wings in the basket.

I suppose I shouldn’t be letting the chicken out of the henhouse without first getting the process patented but I plan to put Hemmingsen on the case. He’s in daily contact with some of the greatest minds in agriculture who meet each afternoon at Cedrics in Hendricks, Minnesota to exercise those minds playing Jeopardy on the bar TV. I’ll bet that after a few beverages and a basket of wings, they’ll have both the genetic challenges and a marketing strategy all figured out.

Me, I’ve got a couple of white suits on order and a pretty good start on a goatee.

A rather stern blurry selfie but shows my Col Douglas Goatee progress  since the New Year.

A rather stern blurry selfie but shows my Col Douglas Goatee progress since the New Year.









Thanks For Everything Phil Everly

Posted: Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm
By: Doug Lund

Phil Everly died this past week and I’m devastated.

There’s a medical name for what killed him but even his wife says he pretty much just smoked himself to death. I suppose we’re lucky to have had him as long as we did; 74 years..most of them puffin’ away.  In a brief statement about his younger brother, Don Everly, who lived life a lot more recklessly than Phil, said he was surprised it wasn’t him to die first.  No matter.   But if anybody deserved to keep taking deep, deep breaths so he could keep on singing those glorious high high notes, it was Phil

everly bros phil smoking

I know you’ve been reading a lot about how the Everly Brothers influenced so many of the major music icons  over the years from The Beatles to Simon and Garfunkel and just about any group that can appreciate close harmony.

I can’t speak for anyone else but myself and the reason I was so crushed at the news of Phil’s passing is because the Everly Brothers are responsible in a big way for…well, just about every positive thing in my professional career both musically and in broadcasting. say, that’s a bit of a stretch isn’t it Doug?

Well, let me try to explain.

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard the Everly Brothers sing; riding in the front seat of our 1953 Mercury with my dad at the wheel and me fiddling with the radio. It must have been in 1957  because the song that came on was their first hit; “Wake up little Susie” and even though I was just a kid of 11, my jaw dropped. I loved everything about what I was hearing; the words, melody, guitars and especially those voices in tight harmony. We didn’t have much of a phonograph at home, but I managed to get that 45 recording on the Cadence label and play it over and over again until the needle had practically ground a rut through those remarkable voices.  Like all kids in the fifties, my cousin, Lawrence (Grouse) and I both loved rock and roll and we were big fans of Elvis (of course) Buddy Holly (him more than me) Bill Haley, Little Richard and most of the other rising stars. Other than church choir, though, we didn’t do much singing together. Baseball was our primary preoccupation. But when we heard the Everly Brothers Grouse and I looked at each other and said..”That’s Us!”

We managed to talk our parents into spending money they didn’t have so we could buy guitars and amplifiers. We each had  relatives who knew how to play so whenever possible, we’d glom onto them to show us chords and techniques..soaking up everything they showed us like a couple of star struck sponges. Whatever other money we could scrape together was spent on the latest Everly Brothers album and then practice, practice and more practice learning the chords and the harmonies exactly like..or as close to the record as possible.

That's Grouse on the left, me on the right and my cousin, Cliff Jacobson teaching us a few guitar chords on Grouse's new Fender in 1960. Cliff could play just about any musical instrument.

That’s Grouse on the left, me on the right and my cousin, Cliff Jacobson teaching us a few guitar chords on Grouse’s new Fender in 1960. Cliff could play just about any musical instrument.

We truly believed that as cousins we, like the Everlys, were genetically predisposed to have identical musical ears and a natural synchronized phrasing ability. In retrospect, I’m not so sure if that’s true. Our similarity in sound to the famous duo was more likely due to the hours upon hours spent listening to those recordings. Even falling asleep to them as Grouse and I spent countless overnights at each others houses..collapsing hoarse and exhausted from all the practice.

You can bet were listening to an Everly Brothers song trying to figure out the chords. We got most of their stuff.

You can bet we were listening to an Everly Brothers song trying to figure out the chords. We got most of their stuff.

It’s here where my chronology gets fuzzy but, armed with about three Everly Brothers songs, Grouse and I entered a local talent contest. I’m not sure if it was Oh, Oh, Claudette or “I feel a brand new heartache comin’ on” that swayed the judges  but we won the thing and then another. That led to performances at Farmers Union meetings, house parties, wedding and anniversary receptions and several other gigs. By the time we got into high school, Grouse and I had managed to form an actual band with bass and drums and were playing real dance jobs..including our own Sweetheart Ball at the Volga gym. We enjoyed a limited amount of popularity among our classmates..not because of our grades or athletic prowace but in the eyes of our peers we were  the only rock and rollers in school and had the tall hair and swagger to prove it.

An early shot of Grouse (left) and me singing a couple Everly Brothers songs in the Volga school gym. It might have even been the talent show but I think that was on stage. This is in front of the stage.

An early shot of Grouse (left) and me singing a couple Everly Brothers songs in the Volga school gym. It might have even been the talent show but I think that was on stage. This is in front of the stage.

We played together in “The Fairlanes” “The Couriers” and “Kracker and the Krumbs” (silly attempt at trying to remain relevant) Eventually, Grouse went into the Army and I got married. We’ve both kept involved in bands through the years (Grouse was inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Scotty Lee and the Stingrays in 2012) and we still love performing on stage. Sadly, though, we are no longer able to belt out all those powerful Everly Brothers songs we did to perfection so long ago. I couldn’t hit Phil’s glorious high harmony notes again if my life depended on it.

Everly it's everly time album

But, oh, how I thank you Phil and brother Don for opening my eyes and ears to your magical music and daring me to dream, dream, dream.  Because of you I know the joy of performing in a band and the thrill of  entertaining an audience which has helped immeasurably to give me confidence not only on stage but  in all walks of life..including and especially in front of a camera on TV.

Because of you I know the addiction of applause.

Rest In Peace and “Harmony.”

The Sound Of Silence

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm
By: Doug Lund

Tick tock, tick, tock.

It’s been over a week since I’ve been able to hear that familiar sound coming from our old Regulator wind-up clock that my dad found and restored so many years ago which hangs on our kitchen wall.xmas 2013 042


I must say, the silence is deafening; something Linda and I will have to get used to again after the post Christmas exodus of our children and grandchildren who have all safely returned to their far away locations in Arizona, California and Nebraska. They have provided us with a noisy but delightful diversion to our normal routine.  It really began when everybody arrived for our traditional ham supper and gift exchange on Christmas Eve.  Ella, age 8 and Zoey age 12 are the only real “kids” remaining in our family who still might appreciate something besides clothes, gift cards or cash so most of the actual presents under the tree on Christmas Eve are for them. It’s still a joy to watch them open and react to each one; sometimes needing to be reminded by mom, “Now what do you say?”  And a meek reply, “Thank you.”

Zoey and Ella.  Jolly little elves.

Zoey and Ella. Jolly little elves.

Zoey wanted this bow and arrow. Even though it was Nerf..everybody had to warn her not to shoot her eye out.

Zoey wanted this bow and arrow. Even though it was Nerf..everybody had to warn her not to shoot her eye out.

Ella must have some of grandpa's appreciation for Red Green because she wanted and received a whole bunch of decorative duct tape.

Ella must have some of grandpa’s appreciation for Red Green because she wanted and received a whole bunch of decorative duct tape.

Ella is, to put it mildly, a bit of a livewire. She’s incredibly creative and always leaves us several samples of her creativity for display on our refrigerator door. It’s a challenge, though, to find something that will hold her interest for very long..that is, until her Uncle James showed her how to braid a lanyard. James has always been great with kids and patiently guided Ella past her initial frustrations until she had it down and before long had graduated to more complicated patterns. We were all just amazed that Ella could be so transfixed by something that to most of us would seem tedious and mundane.  But James knows..just like my mom and every other person who has ever crocheted or knitted or weaved..developing those skills can not only be therapeutic but relaxing and artistically challenging. Just what the Ella ordered.

On Thursday, I asked Zoey if she brought her Viola along and, if so, would be willing to give grandma and me a concert. The answer to both was yes and it was wonderful to see how she held her brand new instrument (upgraded from the child size) with such poise; how she drew her bow across the strings with confidence and was rewarded with pure bold notes..a far cry from the timid little scratchy sounds that occasionally slipped out at her first grandparent command performance.

Zoey’s concert was interrupted near the conclusion by a phone call. I had forgotten that it was Thursday: time for me to be on the radio.  I’ve become a regular on Grant Peterson’s Great Afternoon Smorgasbord Radio Show on KBRK ever since Grant suffered a stroke last April and Radio legend and rodeo announcing icon, Jim Thompson, has been  filling in until Grant’s return. Anyway, Jim..or his colleague me up at 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays and we just chat on the air for 15 minutes about most anything from my years at Keloland to my blog or anything that comes to mind. Well, what came to mind last Thursday was Zoey’s private concert that got cut a bit short. Jim says, we can’t have that…hold the phone up and have her play a number for our listeners. So that’s how Zoey Josephine Moser came to have her rendition of “Up on the housetop” heard…not only on the air over KBRK radio in Brookings, South Dakota but streamed around the world via internet.

Miss Z.J. Moser   Violist heard on radio locally and worldwide.

Miss Z.J. Moser
Violist heard on radio locally and worldwide.

Tick, tock, tick tock.

I already miss sitting here in my big chair just listening to our adult kids around the table talking and laughing about the things they did and the people they remember growing up in this neighborhood. Linda and I both absolutely love it when they find humor in what probably could be perceived as our rather dysfunctional family.  None of it has ever bothered either of us.

The only thing I don’t like about my family is losing 20 consecutive games of “Bananagrams” to them. To make matters worse, I think James and Suzan actually delayed saying “Bananas” once or twice in order to give me time to declare victory. Damn letter Q.

Happy New Year from our too quiet little house to yours